This is a terrible piece. It should be read carefully, and with great attention. It expresses every wrong question with great clarity, with delicate waffles that incite anxiety, as all good op-eds should. But like CNN — see CNN, Shame! Raise Your Standards! “Russia unveils ‘Satan 2 Missile”. Like CNN, Reuters needs column inches. The reader gets a cheap scare, and then the comforting burp provided by a dish of Moo Goo Gai Pan.
These sins were preceded by a sin of (Newsweek) The U.S.-Russia Nuclear Arms Race Is Over, and Russia Has Won, by Scott Ritter. Mr. Ritter has impressive credentials, but fell on hard times, so I’ll proof the article for him. Quoting, “The RS-28 is itself a wonder of modern technology, capable of flying in excess of five times the speed of sound,…” Stop right there. It doesn’t fly. It is not an aerodynamic object. The maximum speed of the RS-28 is about the same as all other ICBMS, greater than 15X the speed of sound, and less than orbital, which is about 24X the speed of sound.
Here’s another juicy bit, the caption on the picture of the submarine:
Where the hell does that come from? We’ve been trying to defend against one or two North Korean missiles for 15 years, with doubtful results. And RItter announces that the Russians are miracle workers? The article is yellow journalism of the worst kind, an incitement to hysteria for the sake of page hits. It’s crap.
We live in the age of MAD — Mutual Assured Destruction, as we have since the Soviets acquired their own substantial capacity to do to us what we could do to them. This has not changed. Both the U.S. and Russia possess substantial overkill. Literally, this means that each country has the ability to wipe out the population of the other several times.
Some of the new Russian weapons have potential for a decapitation strike. But it is a principle of the command structure of both powers that someone will survive with command authority to end the existence of the opponent. Quoting Reuters,
It’s hard to understand why the audience would applaud a scenario that simulates the end of their own lives. That is the scariest part of the whole thing. It’s disgusting. But there is nothing we can do directly about sentiment in Russia. Our own understanding of the meaning and implementation of deterrence are what count.
Nuclear weapons may have staved off a major war for 73 years. But our species has apparently unlimited capacity for violence and cruelty. The free press has an important role in moderating this tendency. It is their responsibility to convey the concept of MAD, from experts who have actually been involved in its operational intricacy. We are as secure as MADmen can be.
So now you know what I sound like when I get mad. Members of the press, this time, don’t go for column inches. Go for civic virtue.